Late-night musical performances are not, by and large, all that exciting. For the most part, the artists on those shows have done plenty of those shows before. Sometimes, they’ve done the same songs a bunch of times on a bunch of different shows. It’s just a part of the job. But sometimes, you happen to catch someone who’s new to the whole experience, who’s still nervous and excited about being on TV in front of that many people. Most of the time, those performances are the best ones. And Noname’s performance on last night’s Tonight Show was definitely one of the best ones.
Noname released her debut album Room 25 last year, and it’s great. One of its best songs is “Ace,” on which Noname joins forces with two other insanely talented Chicago-based rappers, Saba and Smino. It’s a best-case-scenario collaboration, one where all three rappers sound great together, where they push each other to be their best selves. I saw the three rappers perform it together at the Pitchfork Music Festival last year, but America at large didn’t get to see what that looks like until last night.
All three of them did great. Smino’s got a great, raspy singing voice that goes with his rapidfire rapping. Saba’s verse is a dazzling onslaught, and he really gets it across live. And Noname, in addition to being a great pure rapper, is also an enormously endearing personality. The trio performed with Noname’s live band, which meant we got distracting pre-taped ad-libs, but it also meant we got to see her guitarist making G.E. Smith-level guitar faces. It’s all just great, and we can all watch it below.
The self-released Room 25 is out now. Also out now: Saba’s Care For Me and Smino’s Noir, both truly impressive.